Inter-religious organisations play key role in tackling terrorism

Imam Syed Hassan Mohamad Alattas leading prayers for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, along with (from left) Swami Samachitananda (Hinduism), Rabbi Mardoche Abergel (Judaism), Ervad Rustom Minocher Ghadiali (Zoroastrianism), Venerable You
Mr Erwin Yuhanis (left) from Wisma Geylang Serai, Ms Riza Yacob, secretary-general of Creative Malay Arts and Culture (CMAC), and Mr Maidin Packer, CMAC chairman, presenting a book of condolence messages collected from the public who visited Wisma Geylang Serai from March 29 to 31, to Ms Jo Tyndall (second from right), the New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore. More than 500 messages were collected.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Imam Syed Hassan Mohamad Alattas leading prayers for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, along with (from left) Swami Samachitananda (Hinduism), Rabbi Mardoche Abergel (Judaism), Ervad Rustom Minocher Ghadiali (Zoroastrianism), Venerable You
Imam Syed Hassan Mohamad Alattas leading prayers for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, along with (from left) Swami Samachitananda (Hinduism), Rabbi Mardoche Abergel (Judaism), Ervad Rustom Minocher Ghadiali (Zoroastrianism), Venerable You Guang (Buddhism), Chandrakantbhai Shah (Jainism), Master Wang Koon Lee Dean (Taoism), Sister Theresa L. H. Seow (Christianity), Mr Harpal Singh Jothiram (Sikhism) and Mr Foo Check Woo (the Baha'i faith). The remembrance gathering held by the Inter-Religious Organisation took place at Raffles Town Club yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

President Halimah Yacob says such groups strengthen respect among different religions

Restricting hate speech is only one part of tackling extremism and terrorism, said President Halimah Yacob yesterday.

Speaking at a remembrance gathering for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks, she said organisations like the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) also play a key role in strengthening mutual understanding and respect among the different religions.

"Extremists and terrorists feel a sense of supremacy over others and view other cultures as a threat to their existence which they want to eliminate.

"This stems from ignorance, which is fuelled by a relentless stream of disinformation and falsehoods fed to them largely through online platforms," she added.

"Understanding the basis for these feelings of hatred can help us to develop more effective strategies to combat bigotry and xenophobia and to counter hate.

"Over its 70 years of establishment, the IRO has been working hard to foster friendship among religious leaders and followers, and gatherings such as today's are testimony of its efforts."

Established in 1949, the IRO promotes communication and friendship among followers of different faiths in Singapore by conducting interfaith prayers, dialogues and conferences.

The remembrance gathering held by the IRO took place at Raffles Town Club, and included religious leaders and foreign ambassadors to Singapore, including New Zealand High Commissioner Jo Tyndall.

Interfaith prayers were said for the victims of the March 15 shootings by the representatives of IRO's 10 faiths: the Baha'i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.

The terror attacks which took place during Friday prayers left 50 people dead.

ECHO-CHAMBER EFFECT

The terrorist attacks have led to much soul searching in New Zealand and around the world. We ask ourselves, how social media platforms have sometimes become echo chambers, reinforcing and amplifying messages and beliefs among extremist groups, who talk only to each other and begin to feed off the unthinkable beliefs they have.

NEW ZEALAND HIGH COMMISSIONER TO SINGAPORE JO TYNDALL

President Halimah said the most important lesson from the Christchurch tragedy is how to respond as a society after the event, highlighting how many non-Muslims joined Muslims at Friday prayers all around New Zealand a week after the attacks.

"We must do our utmost to thwart the aim of these extremists and terrorists. We have to show them that their acts of terror will not divide us but will instead unite us and make us stronger," she said.

She added that building a strong and cohesive society is a continuing effort that requires commitment from everyone.

IRO president Ben Benjamin said the group's members stood alongside New Zealand in "unified condemnation of this heinous act of terror that aimed to divide society".

He added that the strength and exemplary reaction of the victims and entire New Zealand community reflect "human values and sensitivity that we wish to see in our society and across the world".

 
 

Ms Tyndall said: "The terrorist attacks have led to much soul searching in New Zealand and around the world.

"We ask ourselves, how social media platforms have sometimes become echo chambers, reinforcing and amplifying messages and beliefs among extremist groups, who talk only to each other and begin to feed off the unthinkable beliefs they have."

Mr Mohamad Saiful Md Anuar, 34, who is a Muslim youth leader in the IRO, said in response to the debate in Parliament on curbing hate speech: "Youth today don't even need to see a person to be negatively influenced by him. They just need to see negative messages (online) and say, 'Hey, this makes sense to me,' and then they want to go down that (path)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'Inter-religious organisations play key role in tackling terrorism'. Print Edition | Subscribe